Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Boxing Day Party

So - after a fortnight's shopping, cooking and freezing I was pushed out of the kitchen at the last minute and Bert took over. I already had the oven loaded with the children's food, pigs in blankets and shepherd's pie. By the time I realised what was going on Bert had all my gorgeous food back in the freezer and the adults also ate pigs in blankets. I think one of them might have got a portion of the shepherd's pie. They also ate some kind of a lacklustre salad, something entirely vile called 'chicken balls' and some insipid naan bread courtesy of Mr Asda. No one got to taste my vegetable curry, Bulgarian chicken or my spicy Caribbean beef. My parboiled potatoes were not roasted. My home made garlic bread was barely tasted. They didn't heat up my delicious red cabbage and no one fancied it cold.

What was I doing while Bert was barking orders in the kitchen? I was conducting wine tastings with some carefully selected and appreciative people, the kind of people that do not eat Asda chicken balls. I served the damson first, They were in ecstasies. Then it was the blackberry and raspberry. It was pronounced even better. By the time we were on the raspberry they were in country wine heaven. Swisser even offered to give me high sums for the rest of it. I told her it was beyond price.

Best bit? Miss Martha singing 'You Are My Sunshine' accompanied by Marty on the banjo.

Evie's best bit? Chicken balls.

Worst bit? When Jazzer got her mitts on Bert's clarinet and created a racket that sounded like a large drake in a bog being run over by a John Deere tractor.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is Coming

fourpups, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
These four will be under my feet this Christmas. They will be almost ten weeks old. Big enough to try a bit of turkey.

All I seem to have done this past week is cook and prepare food. And there is still more to do. I have been so busy I actually haven't had time to eat. I certainly haven't had time to blog.

Oops! Must race. The oven timer is bleeping again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pot, Kettle And All That Sort Of Thing

Today Bert called me a hoarder. He said,

You know, you're a hoarder.

I said,

I know. And so are you. State of those sheds.

He did not reply.

The reason for this? He was clearing out his a cupboard in his room and was about to bin several boxes of his mother's memorabilia, old letters, postcards and the like.

I said,

She might enjoy looking at those.

Ah. Sure I gave her a packet of them. That'll do her.

Later on I went into her and she was poring over old letters and cards. I said,

There were more of those. Bert put them in the bin.

She said,

Ach! They bring me back memories.

I borrowed her tool for lifting items off the floor and retrieved as much as I could from the bin. Luckily they were newly emptied so there was little else in the bin. She passed the afternoon with them.

Bert's sheds are packed with stuff. I expect most of it will come in useful some day. There are a lot of potential projects out there. The thing is, he'd need to live to 150 years old to complete those projects - if he could be arsed.

He keeps stuff, I keep stuff, his mother keeps stuff. I had a debate with her this morning about whether she should keep an empty plastic soft drink container. She desired to decant her Lucozade into it even though Lucozade already comes in a plastic bottle. She is saving the tops of plastic bottles because she believes that somewhere there is someone who can turn plastic bottle caps into wheelchairs for needy children. I have told her that this is a crock of nonsense but she does not believe me. Yesterday we had a small argument about keeping bottles of spent medicine.

When Pearlie was up and about she collected and hoarded on a larger scale. She still does it although her lack of mobility prevents her from being really serious about it. These days it is newspaper clippings, bottle tops, over the counter medicines and postage stamps. Sure what is the harm? She's done it all her life, it's part of who she is and it doesn't really impinge on our lives.

I collect books, china, photographs, fabric and kitchen equipment. The books and china do take up a lot of room. Bert collects wood, maps, trees and boiler suits. We're all every bit as bad as each other. But he has sheds. And fields.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meadow Street

Back in the 1970s Northern Irish bars stopped serving drink at 11pm and you were out the door at 11:30pm. If the publican or bar staff did not comply with this rule they could expect a visit from those big lads in green, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. But when you're in your teens or twenties and you're having a good time you don't want to go home before midnight. That is why if Kevin was around we'd often end up back in Meadow Street. Kevin, God love him, did not have the usual family thing going on, his Mum was dead and he lived with his Dad. Ned was a real character who usually spent his weekend evenings drinking in O'Rawes, a pub which, for some reason, didn't seem to have an obligation to close at the usual time. Ned would roll in some time after midnight in the best of form and, if he was in the mood for it, call in to see who was around and have a bit of craic with the company. Though not with me, for I was heart-feared of him.

The Wee Manny and a friend

Kevin had a wee terrier dog called Trouble. Trouble was also a character and danced only to his own tune. He had a back leg missing due to a brush with a moving vehicle but it never kept him back. The leg he lost was the one that he used to balance on when he needed to piss. You'd have thought he would have swapped balancing legs but not Trouble. Instead he somehow managed to balance on his two fore legs while he lifted this one remaining back leg to make his water. It was a sight to behold. Trouble was not one of those dogs who bothered himself with people and while he was prepared to tolerate the weekend invasions of young post-pub visitors he would not take kindly to being petted or stroked. Indeed he would have taken the hand off anyone who would have tried it.

Ned could be sharp too. Sometimes after he'd gone to bed he'd rise again and come down to us and order everyone out of the house. The thing to do was to look down, stay quiet and allow him to grumble himself back to bed. Nobody ever left. Oh - many the good night we had there and even the odd bad one too.

Christmas Night 1976 and I'd just been dumped

I remember one Christmas time when the bars had been packed and afterwards Meadow Street. Someone, I forget who, had a bit of hash and he rolled a joint. I was anxious to give hash a go for I'd never tried it before. The joint made its way around the room, everyone taking just a few drags. At last it reached the girl next to me. I was so excited. But she smoked and smoked and eventually finished it and stubbed it out. Then she remarked, “I don't know what people see in that oul stuff for it never does a thing for me!” I had to wait a while longer for my first smoke of a joint.

A few weeks ago I passed by Meadow Street and I thought of the scores of evenings we trekked there after the pub, not wanting the evening to end. And I thought of a tale that a musician friend had told me. Way back in the 1960s Cream were playing in Ireland. A local music promoter was driving them around and invited the band to stay in his home. The story is that Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce took up his kind and hospitable offer. But what of Eric Clapton? Apparently he was so wasted that he spent the night sleeping in a van in Meadow Street. I'm sure he wasn't the last.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hardy Fruity Toot!

Happy Birthday Katkin.

That was the day you strolled down the Murphystown Road to hang with Auntie Sheena. You might have mentioned to us that you were going to call on the neighbours.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Tonight I have rather pungent hands. First of all I moved a chilli plant from this room to the kitchen. It is on its way to Pearlie's room a.k.a the warmest room in the house. Under the bright and unforgiving kitchen lights I noticed that the plant was hooching with greenfly. So that's why it isn't doing very well. On Bert's advice I attacked it with the garlic infusion that Zoe made for the pups. But the spray doesn't work very well and the strong garlic water ran all over my hands. I needed to wash them very hard as my next task was preparing eight pounds of oranges for wine.

After that was done I gave the chilli another drooking with the garlic spray. My hands now smell of orange peel and garlic. Interesting combination. I am now repellent to greenfly, mosquitoes, ants and vampires and shall sleep content tonight.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Ratty Song

The other evening I sang Martha a made-up song about a rat then promptly forgot all about it. A few days later she said,

Granny, sing the rat song.

I can't even remember the tune and I don't recall any of the words except I fancy that there was a cat that met a horrible end. I vaguely remember thinking it might have been rather a bloodthirsty song for a three-year-old. But I was consoled when I considered that a jaunty tune takes the edge of many a gory tale. So - a jaunty tune, a sliced up cat, a vindicated and heroic rat....

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Living Will

Another funeral today, a friend's mother, in her 93rd year. I hadn't known her for long and I certainly never knew her in her prime but she was a lovely woman, humourous, generous, always smiling and with a great zest for life.

Afterwards I said to Bert,

That went off very well don't you think?

And he said,

Sure don't funerals always go off well?

I got to thinking about that. Usually they do. But I have come across a few exceptions in my time.

Years ago when I was new to the funeral game I attended a service for one of the grand old dames of our parish. The chapel was packed. Suddenly there was a tremendous clatter and crash at the back and the priest suspended the ritual and rushed down the aisle. Turned out the old lady's nephew had suffered a fatal heart attack and, as everyone present agreed, no better place for it and handy to Father for the last rites.

There was a similar story about the doors when a fellow came back from the building in London to attend the funeral of his older half-brother. He took a turn at the wake and never recovered and to save time and money the family doubled up the funeral and buried them together.

The saddest funeral I ever was at was that of a boy of 17, the son of a work colleague. He was killed in a car crash where the boy at the wheel was consequently charged and convicted of dangerous driving. His family were great people but they were not particularly religious. In this country there are a lot of people who believe that a funeral cannot take place without the assistance of a member of the clergy. Someone, somewhere had gathered up an evangelical pastor to speak at the graveside. This man stood there and preached the 'born again' sermon. There was a great deal about 'sinning' and 'eternal damnation'. There was mention made that the unfortunate boy had not been 'saved' so we could all reach our own conclusions on that. There was not one word of comfort for the family. The poor child's mother was in a fainting condition and his older brother looked like he might choke the pastor. I'm sinner enough to wish he had.

I've never forgotten that. It must be a comfort, for those that believe, to hear priests and ministers talk of eternal life. But not everyone buys into established religion. My parents are both dead now and I do not (although I reserve the right to change my mind) feel that it would be appropriate for me to have a religious funeral. The parents would, if they'd outlived me, been devastated to have me buried outside the faith. But now there is no one who'd really care. Say a prayer for me if you wish but keep priests and ministers away from my graveside.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


little white horse, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
Seven years ago I started the good habit of taking regular walks. That continued right up until Matty got ill. I expected to get back into the way of it after she died but it did not happen. It is only now that I am trying again for walking calms and energises me.

Before Matty died I was working regularly and took a half-hour walk every lunch-time. My base was in Kells and there is not a road within a five mile radius of the village that I have not walked. I always took my camera just in case I saw something interesting.

Of course, in the two years I've been out of the way of walking, I've stacked on the weight. I wouldn't care to admit how heavy I'd got but for some reason. I don't know why, I recently lost about 12 pounds. At first I thought I was dying of something but then, when I had a good think about it. I realised I just wasn't comfort-eating as much. So I decided to get back into walking.

Two minutes more every day and I just walk out the door and go - no more getting into the car for it is still broken. I've not got back to taking the camera for I've enough to do with my pedometer, the mobile for timing and the audio book on the iPod. Around the doors just doesn't seem that interesting. But perhaps I'm being pessimistic for that delighful scene above is around the doors for those who live on the Maine Road near Woodgreen

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Cultural Life

Reading with my eyes - My Life by Bill Clinton. My this is a big, big book. I picked it up in an excellent charity shop in Bellaghy last Saturday. I only bought it because it was well indexed. Also got an Andy McNab for Ben, 13 and a picture book for Martha, 3 and all for £2.

Also reading with my eyes - a lot of historical nonsense by Philippa Gregory.

Reading with my ears - The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Contains huge spoilers for Anna Karenina. Luckily I've read that.

Watching - film of Birdsong. Is very pretty to look at but absolute dung. The Stephen Wraysford character is played by Eddie Redmayne, who also did a stint as Angel Clare in Gemma Arterton's version of Tess. He was annoying in that and he is annoying in Birdsong although he is tremendously good at looking like a mooncalf, I will give him that. Birdsong is so shite I can only watch it about ten minutes at a time. If I wasn't a Catholic I wouldn't be watching it at all but you know how keen we are on suffering and penance.

Also watching - Homeland. What is it about Eton and the current crop of British actors? Redmayne went there too. Homeland is very exciting but I feel as if I'm being played with. It's no The Wire (more Eton old boys) or Breaking Bad.

To be watched - Treme and Boardwalk Empire. I'm reluctant to begin for these things do rather take over one's life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Of Pups and Patience

I had all the available family round for a kitchen supper tonight and afterwards Bonnie and I went to bed for a little rest. Three hours later and I'm still there and me with the latest episode of Homeland to watch!

It's been a hectic weekend but an enjoyable one too.

Ben was staying for the weekend. On Saturday morning we went to visit the pups. I tried to take a picture of each one individually but it was tough. I think I may have photographed some more than once and some not at all. They are wriggly and run everywhere. They live in an old shed and it did not make for the most suitable of locations for a photo shoot. Too much stuff in it. The dam is a spaniel and the sire a border collie and I think the collie look will dominate -  although that is no bad thing. I'm looking forward to having our lot back here. I'd been thinking back to other puppy times and remembering how messy they can be. Then I remembered something far worse. They chew things. Judy loved eating my shoes and must have destroyed at least a dozen pairs. We will have to be very vigilant this time as I have hardly a shoe to my foot.

We had Jazzer and Aunt Lizzie on Saturday afternoon and Ben and I baked cakes and biscuits. Jazzer did the ordinary cooking and Bert fed the old girls their wee morsels. It was a fine bright evening on Saturday. The crescent moon hung low in the sky and soon disappeared. The stars were wonderfully bright. Ben and I got sleeping bags and lay on the trampoline watching shooting stars. There were plenty to be seen. Jazzer joined us for a while but, not having a sleeping bag, she did not stay long. Bert, being 'coul rife' did not even chance it.

Despite these joyous, happy things I was a grumpy sod on Sunday. Maybe not enough sleep, maybe a glass of wine (or two) that I shouldn't have finished. Who knows? The weather was damp and horrid and I ate too much. Then I caught Ben tipping some custard into the bin.

Where are you putting that?
The bin.
The bin! (In tones as incredulous as Lady Bracknell's)

There followed a lecture about waste and recycling. Sometimes I don't know how that boy puts up with me. He's a lot like Bert. Patient.

After our visitors left Bert watched Homeland (I'd already watched it) and I polished up a part of the family tree to send to my cousin. I have all this information and have yet to make complete sense of it. I hadn't realised that my great-grandmother gave birth to fourteen children in 23 years of which two died under the age of three and one in infancy. It was nearly half past one before I got to bed.

And that was when Pearlie started to say her prayers. Out loud. I said one too. God give me patience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We Like Lots Of Wine

I have just bottled the birch sap wine. There was a glassful over after I filled six bottles and I have sipped it while watching a programme about Canadian wolves. I think I am drunk and wonder if this is a good thing?

Since I started making wine in August 2011 I have bottled  the following. Those in italics are ones that have already been polished off.

Blackcurrant (one bottle left to age)
Rhubarb 2
Blackberry & Raspberry
Rhubarb 1
Parsnip 1
Parsnip 2
Birch Sap

The blackcurrant was far too dry and acidic. I won't be using that recipe again. 

The carrot is a beautiful colour but a bit on the sweet side. I'll make it again but try for a dry finish.

The peach was wonderful. We drank it over the July holidays because it popped the corks. It's OK to drink peach young. William (my mentor) declared it to be the nicest wine he'd ever tasted.

We tackled a bottle of rhubarb at the weekend and it was very pleasant. I've made three batches of rhubarb and they are always different colours. William said he has the same experience. This one was pale pink. 

The bramley is gone. I used a recipe that called for crab apples. At one point I topped it up with cider and that's what it tasted like. Strong Somerset cider. Apparently apple wines should be drunk quickly. No problem.

I've only had sips of the rest. I'm really looking forward to the Blackberry and Raspberry. That came about because there just weren't enough blackberries last year. Another one that promises to be delicious is the damson. There were damn few damsons this year so, sadly, I'll hardly be making that one again for a while.

The birch sap has a very refreshing taste to it. Miss Martha's Dad tapped the birches and helped me make it so he gets half of it. Quite fitting that I bottled it on his birthday. Happy birthday Dave!

And still in the demijohn are the following

Japanese Knotweed
Blackberry 1
Orange & Apple
Blackberry 2
Rhubarb 3
Peach, Nectarine Etc.

The nettle is far too sweet and I don't know what I'm going to do with it. The orange & apple was made from fruit juice, my first attempt and a very easy recipe. It is supposed to be a quick and simple wine that can be drunk while other, more interesting wines are maturing. We shall see. 

I was reading a book on wine making the other evening and apparently one of the pitfalls is that the wine maker gets too carried away and before you know there are ten or twenty demijohns bubbling away. I mentioned this to Bert and he looked baffled. "Where's the problem in that?" he asked. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

With Friends Like Us

Swisser was here this evening. Like most of our peers and cohorts she is usually full of chat about illness and death. She had recently had her cholesterol checked and apparently it is sky high. Consequently she had cleared out her fridge of forbidden food and the minute she came through the door she was doling out crisps. Bert and I ripped the packets open, searched diligently for the blue packet of salt, ripped, shook and scoffed. That was, of course, before she told us about the cholesterol. We had thought she was just being generous. The next thing she produced from her handbag was a big lump of Stilton. We weren't feeling cheesy so we left that for later. Then she brought out chocolate and we got tore straight into that.

It was only after Swisser left that I remarked to Bert that perhaps we were not as supportive as we might have been. After all, a friend comes round, tells us about some health problems she is having, a diet that she must stick to and here is some food that she loves that she cannot eat ever again or any more. And we go, sucks to be you, snarf, snarf, yum, yum.

But we're not completely horrible. We gave her some pickled onions that were only three and a half years past their sell by date. Sadly she forgot to take them with her.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Beyond Redemption

Like many elderly folk Pearlie does not hear too well. However, in her case, that often depends on what is being said and who is saying it. For instance when Cousin Margaret or Aunt Lizzie are with her, Pearlie cannot understand a word I say. I'll speak to her and she'll look at me quizzically, screw up her face as if I'm speaking Mandarin or Gaelic, then turn to her relative and remark. "What did she say?"

I went into her room at midday today and asked her,

Well. Are you ready for something to eat? 
Do you want a bite of lunch? 
I cannae hear you. 
What do I usually ask you at this time of day?

She looked at the clock and barked at me,
An egg!


For a long time now just as I've been settling down to sleep I've been mildly irritated by Pearlie starting to mumble and drone at around the midnight hour. I thought she might have been reading her Bible aloud and even though I found the droning noise annoying I felt I could not take exception to a lady in her eighties communing with her Saviour. I felt it would be denying her human rights.  There was also the matter of not giving her the pleasure of knowing she was getting on my nerves. But there was this one night I wanted to know for sure. Was it the Old Testament or the New? I crept down the stairs and found that she was not reading from the Gospels. She was merely saying her prayers and, like a child will do, she was praying for the people she knew. I listened for a while and my name was never mentioned. She obviously thinks that I am beyond redemption.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Thursday, November 01, 2012

As Good As It Gets

Martha and Evie's Mama went back to work last week. Martha has been hanging out at Nellybert's for two years now and has pretty much found her feet, or to put it another way, worked out how to rule the roost. But Evie is another matter. She's new. She's finding her feet.

Last week Aunt Tricia (Kerry Sister) was around and we spent the first Evie day in Carnlough where we bought the best toy ever (an interactive  musical telephone) and had a roast beef dinner in the Londonderry Arms. Miss Evie is very partial to roast beef. On the second day we had Hannah and that worked out very well too as both the young Misses are very fond of Auntie Han.

Yesterday there was no Hannah and no Martha so Miss Evie and I borrowed Bert's van and headed off to Drumkeeran to visit two very dear friends of my darling Matty. One of Matty's friends is recovering from a bad fall and is only recently back in her own home. It is always a delight to see her as she loves, without condition, the seed, breed and generation of us all. The only thing is, she always cries when she sees us, thinking of our mother. The next visit was to her sister-in-law next door. We entered to the delicious smell of baking scones. It was just like visiting Matty. There was apple tart and custard as well as scones and Miss Evie enjoyed it immensely. She'll never taste her great-granny's home baking but, thank God, they're still making wonderful scones on the moss road.

Today we had both girls and Auntie Han to help me out. (Words will never describe my gratitude.) We had a relaxed, easy-going day. Martha and I went food shopping, then Evie and I had a walk while Martha and Hannah whipped up some biscuits. There were stories and drawing, dancing and Pingu. Bert did some serious baby-dodging but that meant plenty of outdoor chores got done - roses pruned, pig houses sorted etc. etc.

At lunch I looked around at my grandchildren, my helpful and generous Hannah, my baby-dodging husband and my dogs and I thought to myself, "This is what I always wanted. This is as good as it gets."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Howard's Choice

A few weeks ago a friend of ours told us that he was going to get a couple of pups. His landlord's Springer spaniel had dallied with a farm collie and was expectant. The sad thing was, that the landlord planned to have the remaining pups put down. When we heard this we were aghast. "How," said Bert, "Are you going to feel choosing pups knowing that the rest of them are going to be killed? "If needs be," said our friend, "I'll take the lot of them." Bert decided that we should help him out. It's must be twenty years since we found ourselves with an accidental litter of pups and we knew that we could find them good homes if we tried. We know a lot of people who love dogs.

The last time we found all the pups good homes. One bitch went to the foot of Slievegullion and in time she had her own litter. Swisser took one of those,  a bitch her boys named Tracey, and they have her still although she (the dog) is very old now.

We saw the pups today. Coincidentally they were born not far from Slievegullion. I'd planned to photograph them individually but they are still far too young to be long parted from their mother and she is very protective. I think the farmer is relieved that they are all going to find homes although our friend informs us that he thinks we are mad. "But why?" I said. "Because they are not pure bred."

Pffft! Cross bred dogs are, in my opinion, the best dogs ever. And, even though this is a good thing, because people are now much more likely to have their dogs neutered, cross breeds are not as common as they were in the past.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Birthday for Joe and Jean

Four years ago I used this picture to accompany this post.

It's London Sister's birthday today and it would have been our cousin Joe's as well. They were born on the same day and in the same parish.

Joe died four weeks ago from brain cancer. Tonight was his Month's Mind and the chapel was packed to the doors. The service was beautiful. His daughter, a very talented harpist, arranged and took part in providing the music just as she'd done at her Daddy's funeral. His son read a heartfelt and tremendously moving prayer that he and his sister had written for tonight's service. My brother and other family members did readings. Joe was a well-beloved husband, father, son and brother. He was a good, caring and helpful friend to so very many people. He was funny, open-minded, curious and intelligent. He was the sort of man who should have lived to a ripe old age because he was the sort of man who added value to his community.

He is going to be missed so very much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Look Back In Fear

Fifty years now since the Cuban missile crisis and I remember it like it was yesterday. My sister and I were nine and six then and she tells me she remembers it too. What made this particular situation so frightening for us children was that the adults were terrified. Our parents were afraid and so were their friends and neighbours. I can remember their hushed, terse conversations. I remember the priest praying with the congregation at Mass. He was anxious too. But the person who was most afraid was our primary school head teacher Miss Cassie. She was almost blubbering with fear as she led the innocents in prayer. No wonder. She knew she was going to Hell.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spit of the Devil

After a few fine, bright days the rain came back. I had made the most of the fine weather gathering blackberries and rose hips by day and making, progressing and tasting country wine in the evenings. Wednesday was a very productive day for I was out in the fields for hours berrying and listening to Nelson Mandela's 'Long Road to Freedom'. The reading was so engrossing that I probably stayed out longer than I had intended.

Nearly twenty years ago, and after a few failed attempts, I finally passed the driving test and got my driving licence. Within weeks I decided that I'd make the trip to visit my sister in Kerry. It was quite a journey back then, as roads were not as good and there were many little towns and villages that could not be bypassed. I was over ten hours on the road and by the time I got to the sister's house, ten miles west of Dingle, I was completely exhausted. It was good to get to bed that night. The only problem was that every time I nodded off to sleep I woke with a jolt, my hands on a steering wheel and the dusty road ahead of me. I've never had such an experience before or since - until Wednesday night.

That day in the fresh air and the evening sterilising, racking, stirring and tasting had me ready for a good night's sleep. My only problem was that each time I drifted off I was jolted awake, my hand stretched out to pick just one more juicy berry...

Postscript: Bert has just informed me that blackberries picked after the 29th September are 'no good.'

Who says so?
Alan Titchmarsh. He says that after the 29th September they are as bitter as gall.
Because the devil spits on them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Let It Be

I hear that home owners are to get new rights to attack burglars. Nellybert are home owners and only as recently as yesterday we observed some thievery from premises near to our home. We decided not to attack.

This is what occurred. We were in the garden discussing horticultural matters when we heard a strange noise. It was a crashing, clanging and harrumphing sort of din. We thought it might have been a bullock or some such large animal somewhere where it ought not to be so we went to investigate. Bert took up a vantage point overlooking the yard of the next door premises and I, more daring and foolhardy, actually went to the premises and peeked round the corner. We both saw the same thing. A young man, in possession of a van, loading scrap metal into its back. So engaged was he in his task that he never noticed either of us.

As I've mentioned before the premises next door have been abandoned for teens of years. All the good scrap is gone thanks to the boys that go in for that sort of thing. And, as my experience of informing the police on that occasion did no good at all, we decided to let the matter rest. The wee bits of bent rubbish that he was gathering up would hardly make anybody a fortune.

I did note his vehicle number just in case he'd committed a murder, or some such heinous crime, on his way to our part of the country.

Monday, October 08, 2012

A Foreign Country

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

That is the opening line to L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between which was published in the year that I was born. With all that has been in the news recently about that dead celebrity I have found myself thinking back to what life was like for women and girls back in the late 1960s and 1970s for things were certainly done differently then.

There was a change in the air. What was known then as the Women's Liberation Movement was beginning but it was many years before the effects of that filtered down to the ordinary woman. Women's Libbers were mocked and trivialised and in the home and workplace the old attitudes continued for quite a long time.

Before 1970 a working woman could not secure a mortgage without the signature of a male guarantor because women were not expected to be in continuous employment. And before the 1970 Equal Pay Act it was legal to pay women lower rates than men for the same work. In the workplace women were often sexually harassed and had no redress other than leave the job. This was seen as quite acceptable then.

The other night I heard a story of sexual harassment that shocked me. This happened to a friend of mine. She is sixty-one now and was eighteen then.

My friend was working as a dental assistant in a surgery in a small English town. Her employer, the dentist, a man in his forties, was a person with a quirky sense of humour. Often while treating his patient and with my friend assisting him he would open his flies and bring out his penis. The patient, lying in the chair, jaws wide open, would not be aware of this. My friend was terribly embarrassed by this behaviour but, because she thought it was expected of her, she laughed it off. As she said, "I'd far rather he didn't expose himself but what could I do?" In those days an employer could get his jollies in this manner and pretend he was 'just having a laugh.' Nowadays he'd probably be struck off and have to pay compensation to his victim for constructive dismissal and mental distress.

But you know what also shocked me about this sad tale? My friend said that it was also normal practice for both her and the dentist to smoke cigarettes in the surgery while the patient was being treated. That dentist chap's bound to be nearly a hundred now if he's still alive (which is doubtful). And that is just as well. Imagine being treated by a dentist with his dick hanging out of the front of his trousers and a fag hanging out of his mouth.

The past is indeed a foreign country.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

In The News

So I nervously checked my blog archive to see if I'd ever mentioned Jimmy Savile and apparently I did on one occasion just over seven years ago. I didn't praise him or anything. Just used one of his dopey catchphrases.

One thing that has resonated with me about this posthumous exposure of Savile is that the girls he is accused of having assaulted are now women of around my age. And he would have been around the same age as some of the creeps who seemed to believe it was acceptable to grope and grab at me and my friends and cousins when we were in our early and mid-teens.

In the sixties and seventies there were far too many adult men taking liberties with young girls for there was not the same revulsion for that kind of behaviour as there is now. We girls warned each other about the 'perverts'. We could understand why they'd fancy us but it was incomprehensible to us why they dreamed that we might find them attractive. It was easy enough to fend off those fellows with the greasy comb-overs and the tweed flat caps but God knows what might have happened if we'd ever met anyone charismatic.

Times have changed a little. I don't think there can be many male teachers left that would get away with 'pinging' a girl's bra strap as happened at my sister's school. Nowadays that guy would be out of a job real quick.

The thing is, Jimmy Savile must be one of thousands if not tens of thousands, of famous people who have used their fame, their power and their influence to take advantage of and assault young men and women below the age of consent. It is common knowledge that musicians such as Jimmy Page and Bill Wyman went out with girls in their early teens. Even the late and greatly admired John Peel had liaisons with girls in their teens. He admitted himself to having married a 15 year old when he worked in the United States. I remember reading this about Peel many years ago and thinking that Julie Burchill was a bitter bitch but maybe she had a point.

So what's my point? I'm really not that shocked about these revelations about Savile. Like many others I always knew there was something. But I didn't think that it would be as ordinary as being attracted to very young women. What is shocking is that he did it in plain view and he got away with it. Seems a shame it's all coming out now that he's dead.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Blackberries, A Funeral And An Eely Song

After the blackberries were gathered I went to my cousin's house. He'd died in the early hours of the 26th September after a long illness, patiently and bravely borne. He had enjoyed the support of a very loving family and it seemed to me that he was happy during the last year and a bit of his time on this earth. He said as much too. His funeral was on Friday past and it was a big one for he was greatly loved.

It was at the funeral of another school friend about five years ago that my cousin addressed me as 'Nelly' in the graveyard. I was surprised. Somehow I'd thought that my neighbours and relations from way back when wouldn't know about the Garden. I should have had more wit. Anyway he said he enjoyed it and ever since then I'd always thought of him when I was putting together a new posting. This following post is an old one from around that time and, I think, the sort of post he liked reading.

I'll miss thinking of him when I come to Nelly's Garden although, not as much as he'll be missed by the family who adored him.

Eels! Eels! We Like Lots Of Eels!


Yesterday evening while excavating the freezer I found a bag of frozen eels. Bert was ecstatic for he'd forgotten we still had them. He has only recently discovered the joy of eels and he cannot believe he lived until the ripe old age of 48 before tasting them. Those of you who know him personally will hardly be surprised he took to the Lough Neagh delicacy, as eels, like most of Bert's favourite foods, fall into the category known as 'close to minging'.

That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of eel myself but in moderation only. I couldn't gorge myself on them nor eat them on consecutive days.

Bert fried a huge panful of them, ate two helpings and set aside a large portion for today's lunch. I merely nibbled on two small pieces.

When I returned from work this evening I asked him,

Did you have a nice day darling?

He answered,

No. I had a terrible day.

Why? What happened? 

Well you know the eels I was keeping for lunch? I refried them and they were just perfect. My mouth was watering for them. I was even singing an eely song while I was buttering my sodas and making my tea.
The one that goes, 'Eels! Eels! we like lots of eels!' sung to the air of the Bavarian Drinking Song? 

Aye. That one.

What happened? Did you burn them? 

Pearlie rang over wanting me for something.
Oh God! Were you over there for ages and burned your eels useless? 

No! They were out on the plate waiting to be eaten.

Oh dear.

Yes! I came back over and there was the plate sitting where I'd left it. Not an eel in sight. The plate was spotless!

 Aye! She's the only one big enough to have reached it. Not one solitary eel left....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three Fine Days

Recently I have slipped back to that bad habit of getting up late. It is certainly delightful to snuggle under the duvet in the morning but getting up after 9 feels so wrong. The days are getting shorter now and it is a waste of the light. So I've given myself a jolly good talking-to and will be making every effort to climb out of bed at least an hour earlier.

Another change I have to make is to get outdoors more. I have decided that if the day is dry I will find something to do outside rather than lurk in the house. In the past two days have been working in my vegetable plot and in my flower garden. I have been foraging for blackberries. I have been watching the buzzards and I have been drinking coffee and reading the Sunday papers in the poly tunnel which is far, far, far nicer than drinking coffee and reading papers on the kitchen sofa. I have been wheeling barrows of dung , sowing and harvesting vegetables and collecting seed.

It is going to rain tomorrow. It is going to teem and lash and blow for it is Monday. Now I don't know if anyone else from Cully has noticed this but it always rains on Mondays, usually in the afternoon. I think it might have been fine for a couple of Mondays in May but not since. Even after a pleasant spell, like the past three days, I can be sure it will rain on Monday.

The reason I can be certain about this is because my oldest daughter and her family always come out here on Monday afternoons to work on their vegetable plots. And it is always raining when they are here. Luckily, for them, a good part of their plot is in the poly tunnel, so they don't get too disheartened.

I'm just sorry I cannot go blackberrying tomorrow. It is very fine and pleasant to wander up the hedgerows listening to Sebastian Faulks' 'Birdsong' with Judy at my heels and a bunch of cattle ignoring me.

Bert said,

That wee black bull. He wasn't harrassing you?

The wee black bull? Would he?

Aye. He's getting very belligerent.

I don't think I'd have been in that field with Judy had I known that the wee black bull was getting airs about himself.

So there it is. Two days out in the open air. Working! And I feel a lot happier even though I've got a sore shoulder (right side), a sore elbow (left side) and sore knees (both). At least I didn't get attacked by the wee black bull. That would have been hard to take and it only two weeks since I got tossed and trodden on by that pig.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Remembering Shirley

Remembering Shirley Finlay whose dumped and beaten body was discovered on the 19th September, 2006. Six years now since her life was taken from her.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pigs Are Rough

It was only the other day that I was hand-feeding that brute the choicest, sweetest dates that our local greengrocery could provide. You'd think he'd show some gratitude, wouldn't you?

This is what Rusty did on my birthday. Bert was making a cake so asked me to take care of his evening chore of feeding and housing the hogs. I agreed and went to their sleeping quarters where I prepared them a supper of pig nuts, cabbage and pineapple. I then went to fetch them. First I turned off the electric fencer. The fencing is behind a length of corrugated roofing tin which is a bit makeshift and not really necessary but Bert thought it would provide an extra deterrent to their breaking out. The tin is supported by a heavy old car wheel rim. Arrangements like that are not how Clint rolls but it is very Berty.

Anyway - I was a bit fingers and thumbs with the fencing cord and couldn't get it detached. The pigs were becoming impatient, especially Rusty. I looked into his wee piggy eyes and did not like what I saw there. He was for coming through and  nothing, not electric fence or sheet of metal was going to stop him. I quickly turned to get out of his way but he charged me. The corrugated tin went flying with me on top of it. I fell to the ground. I'd had enough time to worry about getting cut on the metal or the pig getting injured but neither happened. What did happen was I hurt my shoulder and the pig ran over my arm in his haste to get to his supper. The wheel rim rolled gently down the yard just as Bert came running out. He'd heard the clattering of flying tin, wheel rim and wife. I knew he wanted to laugh but he restrained himself.

Meanwhile Lily was screaming her head off. Unlike Rusty she is mightily afraid of the electric fence and she did not know that it had been switched off. So she must have been thinking that Rusty had beat her to the supper trough and was scoffing her share of the grub. No doubt, with her super piggy senses she could hear him gobbling and smell what little was left of the pineapple.

I have been left with cloven hoof marks on my right arm and my shoulder is a bit stiff but I'll survive. Rusty is forgiven. He was just being a pig. I'll just have to be a bit more careful in future. Pigs are rough.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Recycled Post #1

Seeing as it is my birthday I thought I might be lazy and recycle a post from September 2004. I'm sad to say that Harry de Cat is no longer with us. But his legacy remains - Bert is now an avowed cat lover.

The Proper Care and Training of Cats

When our ancient three-legged cat died I swore there would be no more cats. Then Scary Tam called around and said they'd had another litter of kittens. "What are they like?" says I. "Totally gorgeous" says he. "I might take a look at them" says I. I phoned Zoe who agreed to accompany me on the viewing expedition. "I definitely want a female" says I. "I quite agree" says she.

So we landed at Scary Tam's and the kittens were rather nice. Zoe upended the three of them and pronounced them all males. She considered a career as a vet for a time.

"I'll take one anyway" says I. And so we landed home with Harry. He was always great fun. No fear of dogs at all and he used to take great running leps at them. Nowadays we have to dose him with catnip to get his violent urges going. Needless to say we got him castrated. My friend Vinny says that the average lifespan of an unneutered tom cat is two years.

But there was one huge problem. Harry had a thing about pissing on Bert, preferably when he was asleep. The duvets I had to dump! He got a name change for a while and was known as Pisher McGee. But he was still loads of fun and got away with it. "He'll grow out of it" says I. "He'd better, or I'll shoot him" says he.

Then one day that Bert happened to be up early and he went to the front door to have a piss. As we live in the country there was no one to see him but a few thrushes in the hornbeam hedge and Pisher McGee. Bert spotted the cat, adjusted his aim and sent a good morning strone all over Harry. And as God is my judge Harry never peed on Bert or anywhere in the house after it.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sugar High

sugar high, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
What pigs look like when they have just shared a packet of dried dates.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From The Garden Archive

I found these pictures of the beginnings of our garden at the old house, the house that we sold to Clint. I'd never had so much room for a garden before I came to this country and I hardly knew what to do with all that space. I started with a flower bed while Bert concentrated on vegetables. I was very impressed with his skills as I'd never grown vegetables myself.

I seem to have a lot of wallflower here. It is a very long time since I've grown wallflower. I mean to every year but never seem to get round to it.

I have always been very keen on foxgloves and here I had them in profusion. They are a poisonous plant but I've never seen anyone try to munch on them yet. I love the way they add height and structure to a flowerbed although I'm not always keen on where they decide to sow themselves. Bert's vegetables are coming along well.

It's high summer now and the nasturtiums are beginning and Bert's vegetables are ready to harvest. I've always had nasturtiums - they are among my favourite flowers. I took that series of photographs from an upstairs window and looking back at them I wish I'd kept it up. Yet another thing I didn't get round to.

The next year we planted potatoes where the vegetables grew and then we planted a lawn. Bert's father surrounded the garden with a beautiful stone wall which Clint pulled down. He said it would be full of rat's nests, He also knocked down the old house and built a couple of agricultural sheds. He fenced the garden area and filled it with honking, shitting geese. Ah well. Each to his own.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Joys Of Motoring

How long ago is it, when you would be visiting friends or cousins in a residential area, that there would always be at least one car sitting outside a house with the bonnet up? And some bloke would be tinkering with it and he might even be underneath it and there would usually be at least two or three other fellows standing around discussing the problem. At some point they'd get it sorted out and off they'd go in a reek of blue exhaust smoke. You don't see that any more. Because nowadays cars are so complicated and so electrical that only skilled mechanics with diagnostic machines can fix them. And at great cost too.

Take my rotten car. I've only just spent £300 plus getting some electrical problem sorted out and  I had hoped that I might get a few months of  problem free motoring. But no. The other day the wipers came on and I couldn't get them to go off again. It was a fine dry day too. The whole wiper unit was loose and wobbly. After much trial and error I got them switched off. Told myself that Young Loveheart would sort the problem out. I mentioned it to him. He knew the problem. Could he fix it? Not easily. That's a whole new comms unit that will cost at least £300.

I have asked Bert to buy me a pony and trap.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Social Networking Gone Wrong

When the comedian Russell Brand was married to the pop singer Katy Perry, he took a morning photograph of her that showed her all bleary-eyed, tousle-haired and cosmetic free, and then he posted it on Twitter for all the world to see. It was not a flattering picture. I dare say Brand found it hilarious at that moment but he quickly thought again and took it down. But it was too late. By then the world had got hold of it and Brand had shown us all that Miss Perry looked pretty ordinary without the slap and that he was a first-class pillock. He shouldn't have done it. He betrayed his wife's trust. It's all too easy with instant networking to do the wrong thing, to make a fool of yourself, to trample over your own and other people's privacy.

Like lots of people I have friends on Facebook who aren't really friends. They are people I might have known for a long time that I don't see much of these days, people who I might stand and have a quick chat with if I meet them at the supermarket but not really people I yearn to socialise with. These are people whose numbers are not in my phone. And now I know too much about them.

Take the woman whose husband has left her - she goes on Facebook on a Saturday night, probably with a bottle of wine in her, and she has a ill-written, misspelt rant about him. She is addressing him directly and what she is saying is not for the eyes of  her Facebook friends. They might judge, they might decide that perhaps her ex was well out of it. They might cringe. And afterwards they'd feel soiled that they read this, this thing they never should have read. The next morning the rant was gone but it was too late.

Then today I saw a photograph on Facebook of a woman asleep. Her partner had published it without her knowledge. It was not a flattering picture. It was cruel of her partner to have posted it and I told him so. Soon afterwards I got a private message from him. It was rather cheeky. I used the private messaging to tell him exactly what I thought of his actions then logged out and went to call on a real friend, a friend who wouldn't have a clue what social networking is even though she's only 78 years old. I told myself if my Facebook 'friend' responded to my message in a rude or uncaring manner that I would banish him. I was looking forward to banishing him. When I got back I took a look and he appeared to be repentant. The photograph of his partner had been removed. But it was too late.

He didn't get banished today. But he will.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yeah, Jackie

This lady will be 91 years old in November and this is a recent photograph. She's had a bit of 'work' done recently. At the very least she has had her lips plumped up.

This is what I think of Jackie Stallone.

Firstly, there is no way I'd ever dream of emulating her. That attention to image and appearance is not something that matters very much to me. But - I truly admire her. I admire her spirit, I admire her tenacity, I admire her lust for life.  Ninety years of age and she is out there, getting work done, getting her face on, living her life. Way, Jackie.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunshiney Day, Making Hay

At last we've had some more fine weather. And there have been lots of outdoor activities. We've weeded and picked and gathered and sowed. And we've made hay - the old-fashioned way.

Martha is not watching Bert plant a tree. She is attending the burial of the big hen that Foxy tried to take a few weeks back. That hen was not itself for many days after the attack and although I thought she had recovered her spirits she died yesterday. Maybe it would have been better if the fox had finished her off at the time.

Later on Martha and Judy had fun playing in the hay

Today was beautiful too. Maybe a wee bit too warm but we shall not complain. Leitrim Sister came up to stay last night and today we went to St George's Market with Zoe and the girls. Dede and I went on to Ikea and Martha came too. Amazingly I only spent £12.65 in Ikea. This austerity drive is working well. When we got back Bert and Clint were baling and bringing in hay - the old-fashioned way, the way Daddy used to do it. A good day.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Country Living

Old photographs can make an excellent aide-mémoire. Looking at this one from 1992 I realise that we've been living in the country for over two decades now. Miss Hannah was still at primary school (St Mary's in Ballymena, now demolished) and her headmaster, who lived in Portglenone, would pick her up at the end of our lane in a big station wagon crammed to the doors with his own children. Those where the days when child seats were not compulsory and youngsters could bounce around in cars largely unrestrained.

Without this picture I would not have remembered that the last time I made wine was 20 years ago. Unfortunately I don't remember what I made it from or if it was any good but I'm sure it was. I'm sure too that we didn't give it much of an opportunity to mature because 20 years ago I still wasn't fully mature myself. And, it seems, according to my children, I still have some way to go.

The chair Bert is sitting upon and the sofa on which Hannah perches upon a heap of hideous mismatched cushions are long gone. The table is still around. The house that Bert built, and the table I bought for it belong to Clint now and he uses it as a potting bench in one of the poly tunnels.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Guess Where Ireland

The eldest daughter has been sorting out my paper photographs for me. Honestly - I don't know when she gets the time. The other day she presented me with about eight boxes of photos carefully sorted by date. Since then I've been looking through them and I'm often puzzled to who, why or where.

Here are a couple taken when Bert, myself and Danny (the best dog ever) were touring about. Neither of us has a clue where they were taken and Danny is no longer with us, so he cannot help! Any ideas?

Thursday, August 02, 2012


redshank, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
I moved to Drumtara in 1978. The house was newly built and I was its first tenant. Reader, I had nothing!

Well - I had a child, another on the way, several hundred books, a bed, a toybox full of toys (but that wasn't mine) and a couple of chairs.

Word soon got round that I was in need of household effects and furnishings and friends rallied round to help. I soon had more furniture and bits and pieces than I needed. I never said no and that is a habit I have to this very day.

The house sorted, I began on the garden. I'd never had my own garden before and I was very excited. With help from my father I began to create a lawn for the children to play on. It was hard work breaking the soil, getting the stones and builder's rubble out and raking and finishing. At last Daddy pronounced it ready for sowing and gave me a plastic bag of grass seed. I scattered, sowed and waited with mounting anticipation.

It wasn't long before the first green shoots appeared. At first it was only a light green haze but as the days progressed it became greener and greener. My father came to look at it. There were a lot of areas where the seed hadn't taken. He said, "Don't worry. They'll fill in."

The grass continued to grow. It actually started to look quite lush. Except... except it didn't really look like grass. Daddy said, "Redshank." I was very disappointed. My first attempt at sowing a lawn and I had created a weed patch. A lush and green weed patch but a weed patch all the same. I asked my father what I should do. He said, "Just cut them back, don't let them flower, the grass will come through."

I didn't even have garden shears so I tackled my weed patch with the kitchen scissors. It took a long time and I got blisters. But the grass came through just like Daddy said. Of course the kitchen scissors proved impractical when that needed cutting and I acquired garden shears from somewhere and used them to keep the grass in check. To tell the truth it was never much of a lawn but it was good enough for my children to play on.

Nowadays I have a lawn and a ride on mower and a man to cut the grass for me. It's not the best lawn in the world but it's certainly good enough for my grandchildren to play on.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fortify Teeth Day!

Happy Birthday Vancouver Brother. He's barely a day older looking than in the picture but, he tells me, his reading choices have moved on.

Fortify Teeth Day - anagram

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Martha Martha

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 86 years old.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Big Girl

The Jersey Giant hen that survived the fox attack last Sunday is, by far, the largest of all our chickens. That poor thing has had such a tough week. The attack left her sore and traumatised. It was only last night that she managed to get back on the roost. And all week she has mooched around on her own and hasn't come forward when treats such as chickweed and shot lettuces were on the go. Today has been the first day that she has taken her place with the rest of the girls and rushed to the fore when the specials were offered.  Apart from the bantam cock, Plum, none of our current chickens have names. I think the big girl deserves a name.

Any ideas?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Foxy Bites Off More Than He Can Chew

Foxy invaded the hen run this evening. Bert heard the commotion and got a glimpse of him running off. At first we thought he'd made off with one of the Jersey Giants but then I found her hiding in a hedge, She had a great bare patch at the side of her neck and she was terribly traumatised, Fox had got in under the fence in a spot that had been eroded underneath by the recent incessant rain. He pounced on the big chicken and pulled her under the fence. But because she is heavy and because Bert interrupted him he must have lost his grip and ran off without his chicken supper.

Bert headed out to the fields with the gun but had no joy. Foxy lives to hunt another day. He should have picked a smaller hen. Those Jersey Giants can catch and kill mice and frogs. They wouldn't be much of a match for a full-grown fox so I suspect our vulpine visitor must be one of this year's cubbing.

Tomorrow I must make sure that there are no vulnerable spots around the run. Foxy will be back. That is for sure.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Night Off

Young Ben thinks Pearlie is perfectly charming and she thinks the same about him. I think my mother-in-law is a witch and not in a good way either.

One of my friends called this afternoon and she had her grandchild with her. I suggested she called in to see Pearlie not realising that Pearlie already had a caller. Hector is a local farmer (and rare visitor) who has known Bert's family for years. So first of all Pearlie pretends not to recognise my friend although she has known her for a very long time. OK – it has been over a year since she's been round but they moved house and life does get in the way. Then Pearlie announced to everyone that she was hungry and she had not been given anything to eat all day. This was not true and I told her so. I also told her that only an hour before I had risen from weeding vegetables and said to Bert I was going in to get Pearlie her afternoon meal. He told me he'd taken care of it, she'd said she wanted nothing but a cup of tea but he'd brought her a bowl of strawberries. Pearlie scoffed, “One strawberry! That's not very much!” So there were the visitors thinking that all Pearlie had been given to eat that day was one small strawberry. I checked this with Bert later. She had been offered a bowl of strawberries chopped into small pieces.

It's not the first time the mother-in-law has done this. It's a common occurrence when she has callers that she'll tell them we don't feed her. She told her social worker the other week that she'd had no breakfast and that the carer had given her stale bread for her lunch because that's probably all there was. That was the same day I informed the social worker it was time to draw a line under that part of Pearlie's care plan as that particular carer had served bread set aside for the chickens. That same blade couldn't carry a cup of tea from the scullery to Pearlie's room without spilling it everywhere. These women get paid more than waitresses and some of them cannot serve tea and bread and butter without fucking it up.

I had a word with Pearlie. Told her that I was not happy that she'd make these untrue announcements when people were in. She was unrepentant. I haven't seen her since. A night off seems like a good idea.

Bert said to her,

I hear Nelly told you she'll not be seeing you until tomorrow?

She replied,

Apparently. Reach me my cardigan.

Ben and Bert sorted out her supper after I reminded them. Ben gave her a hug and said to Bert,

Hug your Mum.

Ben told me about this. And I was really happy she'd had cuddles from the two boys. Even though she is a witch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It Tickled Me

I received this in greeting card form many moons ago. This, I believe, entitles me to rob it off the internet.

If you do not find it amusing then, I'm afraid, we do not share the same sense of humour. And you don't like dogs. And you hate sheep. And parties.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Things: Death and Remembrance

 I went to a funeral today. It was the second in just over three weeks. Both funerals were for middle-aged men who had been ill for a long time. Today's was for my cousin's husband. He was a man I did not know very well but in this part of the world funerals are attended as much for the living as the dead. My cousin was near my age and we played together a lot when we were children. Looking at his young family sitting with their mother I realised how lucky I was to have had the love of both my parents until I was in my fifties.

My friend Swisser's parents were both gone before I lost mine and she told me that after her father died she became obsessed with her mortality and the fear leaving her children behind. She said, that in time, these feelings became more manageable. I am so affected by dying right now. The death of my dogs has devastated me in ways that I know are disproportionate. I am terribly saddened by the sight of dead badgers, foxes and rabbits on the roadside.

The picture above shows a heart-shaped meadow in the midst of an oak wood planted by a Gloucestershire farmer, Winston Howes, in remembrance of his wife who died when she was 55. This was, according to The Telegraph, a family secret until it was photographed by a passing balloonist. It is now all over the internet. I couldn't rest until I'd found it on Google Maps. It kept my mind off the drowned spiders, dead rabbits and funerals past and present.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One Thing: A Dream

I dreamed a strange one in those half-awake hours in the light of early morning. I was a soldier coming and going from a war. We were a small unit, me, a boy and another girl. I loved the boy. We'd spend a few days away, then home again, real home, not the barracks. I was carrying less and less personal belongings to war. I did not need them. In this dream we were never under attack. We just went on patrol. The area we patrolled was like Paddy's field, a place I played in as a child. The difference was there was a sheer face of earth, maybe 20 foot, to scale before we could the field and at the top end of the field there was another long drop to the road.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poor Lennox

After a long and sustained campaign the unfortunate dog Lennox, allegedly a pit bull type, was humanely put to sleep this morning.

In defence of the decision an 'expert' declared that the dog was “ of the most unpredictable and dangerous dogs he had come across." My feeling is that a dog, previously a loved pet, that is kept in confinement for two years might well display unpredictable behaviour. That poor dog was bound to be traumatised and terribly unhappy with his lot. Although I am not certain that Belfast City Council handled this situation as well as they might have, there is  no doubt that they acted entirely within the letter of the law.

Although I know that many dog lovers will strongly disagree with me, I believe that the campaign to save Lennox actually damaged Lennox's chance of getting back to a normal dog's life. Just because so many thousands of people inundated Belfast City Council with emails and petitions does not mean that the Council can be forced to act outside the law. The law might not be fair to dogs of that type but it remains the law. The harassment of council employees was a disgrace and further worsened Lennox's very slim chance of reprieve. There is nothing simpler than dashing off an email or signing a petition. Just because hundreds, thousands or millions of people do so does not make a cause just or rightful.

There are huge amounts of people who work to help animals of every kind and I truly admire what they do but there are also fanatical animal lovers who go too far. They forget that human beings are animals too and deserve to be protected from dangerous dogs. I'm not saying that Lennox was a dangerous dog, I'm sure he was not, but there are people who keep and breed aggressive dogs, there are dogs bred to fight each other to the death and dogs bred to bait other animals. There are vicious dogs that attack humans, even sometimes killing or maiming children. So there must be laws to protect people and other animals. Lennox fell foul of those laws but that is not Belfast City Council's fault. It is more the fault of those people who want to breed and train dangerous and aggressive dogs.

Should one of my own beloved dogs be deemed dangerous and ordered to be destroyed I would not fight it. I would not start an internet campaign – I would be broken-hearted but I would accept it and I would want it done quickly before the dog's spirit was broken by a long confinement in a sterile environment.

Campaign by all means but campaign for the right thing. Get the law changed so that good-natured dogs that look like dangerous dogs are not put at risk and fight to make legislation stronger so that dog-fighting and all baiting 'sports' are eliminated for ever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Last Year

strawberry patch, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

This time last year there were strawberries.